The “C” Word


Julie was a store manager of Furniture Fiesta. Four years ago, Digi-World picked up the small chain in an expansion move, hoping to expand into the office furniture market space. But a bad economy exposed Furniture Fiesta as a ball and chain on Digi-World’s overall business. Nine months ago, Julie got the word: Furniture Fiesta would soon join the likes of Circuit City and Steve & Barry’s.

After putting in a dozen years, Julie knew she needed to move fast to save her career. She polished the résumé and checked out a list of Furniture Fiesta competitors that were still standing. That’s when Glenn called.

Glenn was a Digi-World regional manager. Desperate to keep knowledgeable staff, Glenn pitched Julie a hard-to-refuse offer: Stay on, see the store liquidation through to the end, and take home a $30,000 bonus. She bit and signed the contract.

And now, after putting in her nine months, months when she could have been pounding the pavement before the economy tanked even further, Glenn had the nerve to tell her the bonus deal was off. Not only that, but Digi-World’s flotilla of legal sharks had found a way to negate her contract.

So Julie went outside for a smoke and gave serious contemplation to taking her lighter to something. Anything. Actually, Glenn, would be a start. She’d have good reason, right?

So much for commitment.

Which is why I look at this AIG fiasco with a different eye. The people receiving these much-maligned bonuses weren’t getting optional performance bonuses, but binding retention bonuses, like Julie, for staying on to close down unprofitable portions of the company. I give you my word...They deserved the money because they made career sacrifices for it and had a legal right to it, no matter how much they make. If there’s a problem, then fix it, but shafting the people who did the work?

So much for commitment.

Folks, that could be you and me being stiffed out of our money for agreed-upon work.

It bothers me that people roll so easily on promises, vows, and commitments. We all know about the divorce rate, but it extends out into so many areas, even to the constant turnaround in the rosters of pro sports teams. Everything is transitory, to the point that saying “I give you my word” carries about as much worth as a five-ticket toy at Chuck E. Cheese.

We in the Church can do a great deal of good by being the counterexample. But it’s going to cost us something. We won’t be seen as “team players” by the rest of the world if we always honor commitments, especially when the higher-ups want to just call the whole thing off, no harm, no foul.

In truth, it’s never no foul, is it? Someone’s always getting stiffed when commitment goes wanting.

Better it be us Christians, that we might spare someone else the pain. After all, we have the perfect example of commitment, don’t we?